Guanella Pass connects Grant with Georgetown and offers many opportunities for hiking and camping in the Pike National Forest and the Mount Evans Wilderness area.
Whether you're looking to bag a fourteener, fish in a mountain lake, see fall colors or a winter snowshoe, the trails off of Guanella Pass will satisfy your craving.
The pass is an easy drive on Highway 285 South, about 1 1/2 hours from Denver. Stop for a break at the parking lot and restrooms at the top of the pass.
Colorado has 54 peaks over 14,000 feet in elevation. The trail to the top of 14,065-foot Mount Bierstadt begins at the top of Guanella Pass, and it is considered one of the easiest of the fourteeners to summit. Any summer and fall weekend you'll find a steady stream of hikers headed for the top of the mountain.
Boardwalks through wetlands and well-marked trails make the path easy to follow, although you'll want to bring plenty of water, snacks, and dress in layers. The 3 ½-mile trail is steep at times, and breathing can be laborious at this altitude. The weather at the top of the peak can be cool and windy, and it could snow any month of the year.
The top offers views of adjacent Mount Rosalie and Mount Evans, which are accessible by an additional trek a few miles across a rocky saddle that is not for the faint of heart. Most people choose to return to the parking lot by the same trail they took up the mountain.
The Burning Bear trail originates at a parking area marked by a jack-leg fence just before the Burning Bear campground, two-thirds of the way to the top of the pass. The trail winds through a wooded area, crosses Geneva creek, then traverses a meadow and climbs to the top of the ridge.
This mostly flat trail is signed for winter use and makes a good snowshoe or cross country ski route. Though Guanella Pass is closed for the winter, county plows keep the route this far cleared. The trail offers stunning views of the surrounding glacial peaks and the chance to see deer, elk and other wildlife. The entire trail one-way is 5 ½ miles, but you can hike out and back to the top of the ridge for a hike about half that length.
Square Top Lakes
The trailhead for the Square Top Lakes trail is across the road from the Mount Bierstadt trail at the top of the pass. Hike for two miles above the treeline across meadows carpeted with wildflowers in the summer to twin mountain lakes.
Bring your fly rod and fishing license to cast for mountain trout or a camera to photograph the flowers, surrounding peaks, and wildlife such as marmots and bighorn sheep that inhabit the area. Since this hike is entirely above the tree line, you should hike it early in the day during the summer to avoid the area's frequent afternoon thunderstorms.
Scott Gomer Trail
Driving from Grant, the Scott Gomer Creek trailhead starts at the first parking area on your right, about five miles from Grant. The trail climbs steeply through aspen groves, following the creek, then levels off and crosses open meadows. During the fall you'll walk through showers of golden aspen leaves and carpets of purple fall asters.
The trail offers views of adjacent mountains, including Bierstadt, Rosalie, Sawtooth, Kataka, Epaulet and Evans. The parking area has space for only a half-dozen vehicles, so arrive early or hike during the week when the trails see less use.
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